Mercy Arkansas Hospitals Receive Awards for Excellence in Lactation Care

June 12, 2024

Mercy’s Arkansas hospitals have been recognized for excellence in lactation care, which includes staffing certified lactation consultants and helping to promote and support breastfeeding.

Mercy Fort Smith and Mercy Northwest Arkansas received the IBCLC Care Award, a two-year recognition from the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners (IBLCE) and International Lactation Consultant Association (ILCA). The IBLCE is an international credentialing body whose mission is to serve the global public interest by advancing professional practice in lactation consultation and support through credentialing.

Mercy doctor's coat The Mercy Milk Depot opened at Mercy Hospital Northwest Arkansas in 2023.

Mercy was cited for staffing professionals who hold certification from the IBLCE and providing a lactation program for breastfeeding families. In addition, both Mercy Childbirth Center – Fort Smith and Mercy Birthplace – Northwest Arkansas demonstrated that they have recently completed activities that help protect, promote and support breastfeeding.

Each location is now listed on the IBCLC care directory. Mercy hospitals are the only Arkansas facilities in the directory.

Lactation consultants focus on preventive care, so they are available during pregnancy to assess and provide information on how to successfully initiate breastfeeding. 

They continue that assistance after the baby is born by helping families overcome breastfeeding challenges, providing accurate information and continuing to support them as their baby grows. They assist families returning to work or school, help families in more unusual situations such as breastfeeding more than one baby or nursing a sick or premature infant, and help train nursing staff to manage basic breastfeeding care.

In addition to providing inpatient and outpatient support through its lactation consultants, Mercy Arkansas hospitals support breastfeeding by hosting prenatal in-person classes for expectant mothers and their partners. In April, Mercy NWA was accepted into the Center for Health Equity, Education and Research CHAMPS National program and has collected more than 10,000 ounces of breastmilk since opening the Mercy Milk Depot in December.

Mercy doctor's coat Team members celebrate World Breastfeeding Week at Mercy Fort Smith.

The benefits of breastfeeding are well known. Research has shown that breastfeeding offers many health benefits for babies, including:

  • Stronger immune systems and resistance to infection.
  • Decreased risk of bacterial meningitis.
  • Lower rates of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
  • Less diarrhea, constipation and upset stomach.
  • Fewer colds and a decreased risk of pneumonia.

“The vital care that lactation consultants provide globally to breastfeeding families helps babies get off to the best start at life,” said Brooke Gilliam, chairwoman of the Board of Directors of IBLCE. “Care facilities recognize this and ensure families receive quality lactation support by employing IBCLCs. Having this ongoing support from skilled lactation professionals and the facilities that support them is invaluable.”

“By honoring facilities that employ IBCLCs, we spotlight the substantial role these professionals play in advancing health outcomes within communities worldwide,” added Iona Macnab, president of the ILCA.